Top travel tips for separated parents

Top travel tips for separated parents

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With the shackles of COVID-19 beginning to loosen and the warm weather emerging many may be thinking about travelling abroad this summer. For separated parents, there are a few additional things to consider prior to that potentially long-awaited trip abroad.

Do you have a child arrangements order?

If a child arrangements order has been made in your favour, naming you as a parent your child lives with, you are able to take them abroad for up to one month or if the court has granted you specific consent to travel on that holiday. On a practical level to avoid any issues at passport control you should travel with a copy of the child arrangements order naming you.

Parental responsibility

If a child arrangements order is not in place, establishing who has “parental responsibility” is an important next step. Parental responsibility is a legal concept that encapsulates all the rights, duties and responsibilities held by a parent towards their child. The most important being to provide a home for and to protect and maintain their child. Parental responsibility also confers responsibility for choosing and providing your child’s education, naming your child and agreeing to any change of name and agreeing to medical treatment.

Mothers acquire parental responsibility following the birth of a child. Fathers also acquire parental responsibility provided they were married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or are named on the child’s birth certificate. Parental responsibility can also be acquired by making an application to the court. Such is the importance of parental responsibility that it is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without the consent of everybody who holds it.

Even parents with parental responsibility should obtain each other’s consent to travel abroad with their children. It would be wise to travel with a letter from the other parent or people with parental responsibility providing this consent. It would also be prudent to take this step even if the child’s father does not have PR if possible.

If you do not share your child’s surname, skin colour or are a blended family you should travel with a copy of your child’s adoption/birth certificate naming you as their parent. If there has been a name change, have the official documentation confirming that to hand. If you are a child’s guardian travel with the court order appointing you to avoid any difficulties at passport control.

Travelling with children over 16

A child passport can be used until it expires, even if the “child” has turned 18, and is valid for five years. However, where a minor who is over 16 has an existing “child” passport, they can renew their passport and it will automatically become an “adult” passport at that stage. An adult passport is valid for 10 years. Other than the duration of the passports, there is little difference between an adult and child passport.

Children travelling unaccompanied

Many countries require a consent form for entry of unaccompanied children.

  • Spain requires written permission signed by the father, mother or guardian for under 18’s to leave Spain.
  • Austria recommends under 18’s travelling to Austria without their legal guardian to provide an informal declaration of consent for foreign travel along with a copy of the birth certificate of the child and a copy of the passport of their legal guardian.
  • Estonia recommends minors travelling independently to carry the consent of their legal representative (e.g. a document containing the contact details of their representative(s)) when crossing the Estonian state border.
  • USA requires a notarised letter from both parents if travelling with a non-parent for those under 16.
  • South Africa requires that all minor children travelling through any South African port of entry must have an unabridged birth certificate or an equivalent document. There are many other documents required and this will depend on whether the child is travelling with a biological parent or not.

Airlines that operate unaccompanied minor schemes require parental permission up to their respective mandatory age requirement. Although some airlines consider 16+ as adult passengers, the requirement for parental consent is one made by the respective countries that the minors are travelling into and so care should be taken to ensure this is understood before travel.

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